Liberia outsources its education system

A harbinger of things to come?

I read this report about Liberia effectively outsourcing its education system to a US for-profit “affordable learning” corporation called Bridge International Academies:

“Liberian education Minister George Werner announced that the entire pre-primary and primary education system would be outsourced to Bridge International Academies to manage. The deal will see the government of Liberia direct public funding for education to support services subcontracted to the private, for-profit, US-based company.”

I find this quite disturbing but also a harbinger of things to come as corporations, well-intentioned or not, begin to flood developing nations with a thin version of scripted education delivered by untrained personnel reading from a tablet computer whilst being directed by big data, algorithms and adaptive learning technology. (see my talk on personalised learning)

Kishore Singh, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the right to education, described the initiative as:

“unprecedented at the scale currently being proposed and violates Liberia’s legal and moral obligations.”

After some noise on social & press media Bridge have distributed this flyer:

Bridge International’s investors from Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg reads like the Knights of Ayn Rand but even the UK’s DFID have made an investment in what would be illegal in the UK

I’m not entirely opposed to “for-profit” orgs working in this space but the wholesale outsourcing of an entire education system establishes an intellectual monoculture with potentially catastrophic consequences for a nations indigenous culture and diversity. It’s like capitalism without free markets.

I certainly don’t think this was what was intended when the UN announced the Sustainable Development Goals and SDG 4

“Achieving inclusive and quality education for all reaffirms the belief that education is one of the most powerful and proven vehicles for sustainable development. This goal ensures that all girls and boys complete free primary and secondary schooling by 2030. It also aims to provide equal access to affordable vocational training, and to eliminate gender and wealth disparities with the aim of achieving universal access to a quality higher education.”

I’m interested to hear what other people think so please feel welcome to add your thoughts and comments.

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An entertaining & thought provoking slayer of sacred cows, Graham Brown-Martin works globally with senior leadership teams to help organisations adapt in the face of rapid change & innovation. By challenging entrenched thinking he liberates teams to think in new ways to solve complex challenges. His book Learning {Re}imagined is published by Bloomsbury and he is represented for speaking engagements via Wendy Morris at the London Speakers Bureau.